Montgomery’s Civil Heritage Trail – A History and a Guide

The President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, delivered his inaugural address from the steps of the Alabama State Capitol Building on February 18, 1861. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his Address at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March on March 25, 1965 from the very same steps. Both spoke with the passion of their times, as leaders of their national conflicts from the Alabama Capitol Building steps almost 100 years apart. One might consider this juxtaposition of opposites as a theme of the Civil Heritage Trail in Montgomery, Alabama. It is thought provoking, to say the least, that two of the most transformative movements in American history began in a relatively small town in Central Alabama.

As one moves along the two-and-a-half-mile trail which links twelve sites related either to the American Civil War or the American Civil Rights Movement, these cross sections of history are found around every corner. For this very reason, the trail was designed for pedestrians and cyclists. There are times when the need is felt to stop and soak up the rich irony and to consider the vast capacity for change in the hearts of men. The trail may be traveled by automobile but two feet or two wheels are recommended, especially in the spring and fall months. Trail brochures / maps may be found at Union Station – located on Water Street - or at any of the trail sites which are marked by a blue Civil Heritage Trail seal (conveniently doubling as a bike rack). The Civil Heritage Trail is free of charge.

The book published by Arcadia Publishing / The History Press, Montgomery’s Civil Heritage Trail – A History and a Guide, was released on February 6, 2017. It serves as a stirring narrative of the trail and a partial history of Montgomery. This collaborative work is made up of three introductory chapters followed by a dozen main chapters, each describing a particular site’s place in the narrative. The book is authored by the trail’s site directors, curators, historians, activists, and care takers. Montgomery attorney and founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees, is author the book’s forward.

We invite you to visit our lovely city on the banks of the Alabama River and to travel the Civil Heritage Trail. As President Theodore Roosevelt said while in Montgomery during a good will tour of the South in 1905, “Poor indeed would be the soul of a man who did not leave Montgomery a better American than he came into it.” 

For more from the author, check out the book: Montgomery’s Civil Heritage Trail – A History and a Guide